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From Division 3 School to Pro Football Overseas with Nick Alberto

“Everyone is talented, but your mental strength is what separates you from others.”

An interview Nick Alberto, an overseas pro football player

Nick Alberto went from an overlooked recruit to an overseas professional football player. His persistence through his journey from Division III McDaniel College to the professional ranks is the embodiment of the underdog mentality.

We had the chance to speak with Nick about his unique football career, the challenges of playing overseas, advice for younger athletes, and more.

What is your earliest memory of football?

My earliest memory of football is when I was in elementary school. Every day during recess we would get time outside to play. We had options to do all kinds of things – run around, play kickball, play basketball, and go on the swings.

I always chose to play football.

Every day I would bring a football to school just so me and my buddies could play during recess. There was a big patch of grass that stretched about 40 yards long and probably 20 yards wide.

I was always so competitive and always wanted to win, but most importantly I always had so much fun. I think that was when my love for the game started because I felt like I was pretty good and I had so much fun whenever I played.

What was the recruiting process like for you in high school?

Truthfully, the recruiting process was pretty slow for me. At my height (5 foot 8 inches) I’m classified as “undersized” in the football world, so coming out of high school I didn’t have much interest.

I went to a high school that wasn’t known for producing high-caliber football players. In my senior year, we went 8-2 which was the best in school history, so that generated a lot of buzz. I played all four years of high school on varsity, but it wasn’t all great for me.

Pro football player Nick Alberto says: "Everyone is talented, but your mental strength is what separates you from others."

I got called up as a freshman and earned myself some playing time and, because of that, the coaches had high expectations for me. Sophomore and junior years I struggled on the field. It was definitely a mental block for me.

I was in my own head a lot and allowed people and mistakes to get under my skin easily. I also was constantly moving positions which didn’t help me because I didn’t know where I played best and where I belonged.

Once senior year rolled around I took a full turn. I really understood who I was as a player and what I was capable of accomplishing. I had gotten out of my own head and was ready to prove myself.

My coaches challenged me to step up and I was ready to. I had this chip on my shoulder all year because it was time to show what I can really do. I really took the “undersized” thing and ran with it. My mindset was “Yes, I’m probably gonna be smaller than almost anyone and teams are gonna pick on me, but good that’s what I want.”

I started as a slot receiver and a defensive back and kept that chip on my shoulder all year. I finished as an All-Conference selection on defense and helped contribute to an 8-2 record.

I had a great year on defense, but I knew I wanted to play slot receiver in college. That was where I felt I could be most successful.

Plenty of D3 coaches would come by our school and I’d speak to them, but there were really only two schools interested in me: McDaniel College and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

McDaniel wanted me as a slot and FDU wanted me as a defensive back. I took visits to both schools and did overnight stays. McDaniel gave me the impression that they were a program on the rise with a strong support staff. It really felt like a place I could call home, so I committed shortly after my overnight stay.

Tell me about your college football career at McDaniel. How did you develop as a player? And when did playing overseas become a real possibility?

I can genuinely say I really worked my ass off at McDaniel. When I reported for training camp my first year, I fully expected to be last on the depth chart. I had all the confidence in myself and my abilities, but I knew the coaches would look at me like everyone else: “He’s too small to play”.

As expected, I was last on the depth chart. I can vividly remember that most because the moment I saw that my mindset immediately went to, “it’s time to get to work”. I was determined to earn playing time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t play as a freshman even though I believe I should’ve played. But I came into training camp as a starter the following season. From dead last to the starter in a year’s time.

I wish I could say I started all year and put up great numbers, but that wasn’t the case. There were still coaches who believed I was too small to play. There was one coach who was responsible for me starting, and he was gone by sophomore year. I remember having a conversation with him before he left and he said something along the lines of, “There are some guys who don’t think you should be here. Prove them wrong.”

I continued to have that chip on my shoulder and I showed up to practice every day and went to work just waiting for my opportunity.

In my junior year, there were some coaching changes and finally, I was a starter. I started all 10 games and notably scored a game-winning touchdown on the road against Moravian.

I never had my senior season because of COVID-19. I knew I had so much left in the tank and I wasn’t even close to reaching my full potential. I tried to get a contract professionally in Europe, but it was hard because my film was limited.

Then, I had someone reach out to me about an opportunity to study in the United Kingdom for a master’s degree and also play football for the University. The catch was it only takes a year to earn a masters in the UK versus 2 years in the US. I didn’t want to give up on my dream of playing overseas and I figured having a master’s degree couldn’t hurt.

I found a program that interested me (Public Relations), so I applied. I was accepted into Leeds Beckett University. After getting my passport and student visa I headed to the UK.

We ran a triple option offense and the coach wanted me to be the QB. I had experience playing QB when I was younger in little league and high school. I finished the season with 32 total touchdowns and plenty of highlights. I was confident I had strong enough film to earn myself a contract.

Shortly after our season ended, my coach texted me and sent me an Instagram profile of a coach in Germany and told me he was interested in signing me. I decided to reach out to the coach and sure enough, he was interested.

I met with him, and he gave me the rundown of everything. I would get to play slot receiver and return kicks and punts, which is exactly what I wanted. I also was the emergency QB because of what I did in Leeds. Everything sounded good so I decided to sign the contract.

Two weeks after I signed I was now in Germany for my first pro season. I think I developed tremendously as a player. I faced a lot of adversity in my time there, but it only made me stronger, it only made me work harder, and it only made that chip l on my shoulder bigger.

I knew since the moment I stepped on campus that playing professionally overseas was a possibility for me.

Since high school I have wanted to play football in Europe, so once I got to college I always had that as my goal for when I finished playing at McDaniel. I was determined to make it happen by any means necessary.

Nick Alberto quote that reads: "If you're being overlooked, use that as fuel. Remember all the teams that passed up on you. Remember all the coaches that ignored you. Remember all the people who said you can't do it."

Going from a Division III program to professional football is no easy adjustment. How did you make such a big leap?

It’s all a mental thing really. I always knew that I was capable of competing at the highest level.

My mindset is that no matter where I go I will never be outworked. Everyone is talented, but your mental strength is what separates you from others.

You always hear people say football is more mental than it is physical and it is so true. Your body is capable of so many things, but your mind is the one who says no first.

What it really comes down to is how hard you’re willing to work to reach your goals and how you respond when things don’t go your way. I was willing to do whatever it takes to reach my goal (play professionally overseas) regardless of what people had to say, and when things didn’t go my way I never gave up and stayed persistent.

The competition is solid and the pace of the game is similar to what I experienced playing D3. It’s hard to describe the difference in competition though. When you’re in college you’re mostly playing against kids aged 18-22, but in the overseas leagues, dudes’ ages range from 19-40.

You really are playing with and against grown men versus other kids in college. The American talent is top tier. You see guys coming from all over the US that played D1, D2, and D3. The European guys are usually pretty experienced as well because guys start playing for youth programs as young as 14.

People don’t realize the talent that comes out of Europe. Just look at how football has grown on a global scale. There’s the growth of the European League of Football, the NFL International Combine, and the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program.

What is the most overlooked challenge of playing pro football overseas?

I would say the fact that you are playing and living in a completely different country. That is a big transition and you are doing it all alone.

People might overlook the fact that you are quite literally packing your things and moving to another country for 6-8 months. It’s a big adjustment. New time zone, new food, new language, new everything.

If you feel sick or miss your friends and want to go home you can’t. I think people might overlook that aspect, but it is huge because it’s a serious commitment and you’re deciding to move to a completely different country.

It’s a big step outside of most people’s comfort zones.

RELATED: Behind The Scenes Of Overseas Pro Basketball With Kevin Owens

What advice would you give to a high school athlete who feels like they’re being overlooked by college scouts?

Don’t let it discourage you. All it takes is one opportunity, and you can make your own opportunities. If you believe in yourself, walk onto a team and earn it.

Don’t be scared to chase your dreams. It sounds so cliche, but if you work hard and believe in yourself anything is possible.

If you’re being overlooked, use that as fuel. Remember all the teams that passed up on you. Remember all the coaches that ignored you. Remember all the people who said you can’t do it.

Take negatives and turn them into positives. Continue to grind and don’t become complacent. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready when an opportunity presents itself.

How can our readers support you?

They can follow me on Instagram @nickbert_10 that is where I post most of my travel and football-related stuff. I post live stream links to games on there as well (be on the lookout for an announcement coming soon).

They can also subscribe to my YouTube channel @nicksjourneyoverseas that is where I will post travel vlogs, game day vlogs, Q & A’s, etc.

Editor’s Note: Nick Alberto has officially signed with the Pforzheim Wilddogs of the German Football League for his second professional season overseas. Congratulations Nick, and thank you for sharing your journey with us!

If you enjoy stories like this, subscribe to our free Underdog Newsletter for a monthly dose of the unsung heroes and overlooked stories in sports.

Written By

Division III baseball alum (McDaniel College) and founder of Joker Mag. Sharing underdog stories to inspire the next generation.



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